Cutting Regimen

It’s finally time to cut.  After 12 weeks of heavy lifting and eating to put on that mass, I’m both mentally and physically ready to trim down the fat, build definition and expose some vascularity.  Honestly, 205 lbs. was a decent weight to bulk up to.  It didn’t take too much effort on my part and there were plenty of foods rich in calories that I enjoyed eating.  But I’ve been feeling too heavy and immobile for several weeks; anyone who has ever put on 15 or more pounds in a few months knows what I mean.  It just feels SLUGGISH.   Of course, there’s also the aesthetics.  Bodybuilding was never about strength alone, that philosophy resides with the powerlifters.  Successful bodybuilders incorporate a lot of powerlifting principles to help build strength and mass, but we also want to impress through appearance.

The link to the cutting regimen has been updated on the Onslaught Resources tab; make sure to check it out because there are plenty of modifications from the bulking phase.  All comments/criticism are welcome.  The new structure was inspired by principles from German Volume Training, and shares a lot of similarities to basic GVT schedules posted by others.  The philosophy of a bodybuilding cut is to maintain and make strength gains while stimulating hypertrophy in the muscles.  The basic premise of GVT is to introduce high volume workouts [as the name implies] for the particular muscle group being trained on that day with short rest periods in between.  The rationale behind this method of training is that the short rest periods incur cumulative fatigue as you progress with each set, leading to better conditioning and strength retention.  The 10 sets of the exercise hit the muscle group hard and the stress induces hypertrophy while the high rep range promotes definition.  The 10 sets should be limited to 2 primary exercises per workout to prevent over-training, and is best utilized for compound movements such as benchpress, squat, deadlift, overhead press, etc. to hit as many fibers as possible.  I prefer to include 2 auxiliary exercises as well with 4 sets each.

There are 2 very important concepts that should be followed to be successful with this training method.  The first should be inherent, in that the weight you manage to lift 10 sets of 10 reps should be far below the weight lifted for the respective movements during the bulking phase.  Typically, to satisfy the number sets and reps requirement, one will fall to about 60% of his 1RM, or 1 rep maximum.  The second concept is that the rest period duration must be short, typically about 60 seconds.  This is HIGHLY important; most of the effectiveness of the method lies in how diligently you manage your rest periods.  For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you use a stopwatch or timer of some sort.

This GVT inspired Onslaught regimen is a bitch to get through, but initial impressions suggest that it will be well worth it…

Preworkouts and Placebos

Bodybuilding.com is a great resource, as most of you may already know.  Typically everyone who’s ever wondered about anything related to working out will have, at one point, stumbled across some informative article on the site.  And all of the information is free – Great stuff.  A lot fewer have actually purchased something from the site [still a very sizable amount].  This is probably due to their shipping charges, whereas merchants like Amazon.com and Vitaminshoppe.com will typically offer free shipping on popular products.  Those that have bought from BB.com know that they provide samples of random products, typically preworkout formulas [PWOs] and fat burners, with your purchase.  It offsets the shipping costs a bit, but not quite enough; I’d still only buy from them if they have a significantly better deal than elsewhere.

Anyway, two PWOs that I’ve gotten samples of include Cellucor 4 Extreme and MusclePharm Assault.  But first let me give a brief background about me: I’m a very “natty” individual.  Until January of this year, the only supplementation I’ve ever consumed was Optimum Nutrition Whey and the regular assortment of vitamins and minerals.  The 6 week cycle that started in January and ended in mid February was my first time taking creatine.  So when considering PWOs, I’ve tended to be very skeptical and reluctant to accept their alleged effectiveness.  Cynicism is just a part of who I am.

With that being said, one would expect my body to be highly receptive of stimulants or depressants.  Au contraire.  Even though I’m so natty and never drink coffee or tea and rarely ever drink alcohol, my body and mind never seem to “feel” the effects of these as prominently as others do.  I’ve been prone to falling asleep after consuming caffeine and functioning fully alert after drinking in excess of 10 shots of Black Label.  These experiences probably led me to be so cynical about the effectiveness of anything claiming to alter my body’s performance or mood.

But years have passed and I’m determined to break and make personal records now.  Lax attitudes didn’t get me as far as I wanted and so I’ve become very willing to try supplements such as creatine, PWOs, and thermogenics.  With this past week being the last of the bulking phase, I felt it was appropriate to try out the 2 PWO samples I received before starting my second creatine cycle w/ 6 weeks of cutting.

I’m not exactly sure what I was looking for.  A kick in the face type energy boost?  Massive vasodilation?  Tunnel vision type mental focus?  I knew that the majority of reviewers stated that both of these PWOs didn’t offer these things – that instead, they’d provide “clean, smooth energy” and “endurance during the last few reps”.  True, I felt that with the C4 Extreme; I also had the tingles for 10 minutes that are supposedly a signature effect of beta-alanine.  Didn’t really feel either with Assault, but I did feel like my veins were slightly more visible.  And they both had slight amounts of creatine, but definitely not enough to make my post-workout recovery phase feel any different.

Those like me know there are many benefits to being so insensitive to the things we put in our bodies.  We don’t suffer the stomach issues like other do, we don’t feel nausea nor urge to vomit, and we usually don’t suffer from headaches.  But there are some negatives as well: we tend to question the effectiveness of EVERYTHING, simply because we don’t really feel it as significantly as other reviewers say they do.  We also tend to take increased dosages or portions for the same reason.  We assume we need a greater amount to get the same results.  And although in most situations, an increased dosage is advised for heavier individuals, we’ve all heard of bodybuilders say that they take way more than recommended just because that’s what feels appropriate for them.  The toll that these increased dosages are taking on their hearts or vessels is just unknown to them.  A precarious situation, to say the least.

I wouldn’t purchase C4 Extreme nor Assault.  You might say 1 use isn’t enough to review a PWO.  That’s true, but this isn’t a review; it’s more of a decision made from an observation that the effects of those PWOs aren’t what I’m looking for.  I haven’t given up on PWOs as a whole.  I’m definitely hyped to try out Labrada Super Charge Xtreme N.O. and USP Labs’ Jack3d Micro, but I’m also aware that I may not be satisfied with them if I stick with my cynical lens.

The placebo effect usually gets a bad rep from the general populace.  But I mentioned before that the greatest factor in bodybuilding is mental focus and placebo effect is literally nothing if not mental.  Why not use it to our advantage then?  Almost all PWOs share similar ingredients, typically caffeine, some form of creatine, beta-alanine, arginine, etc.  Why go through all the effort of checking out reviews of these products and going through the ingredient profiles only to greet them with a super cynical perspective upon the very first use?  I’ve found that even if I don’t actually feel significantly different than normal after taking these PWOs, I can still convince myself that they work during the workout.  And I end up lifting harder and stronger because of my coerced mindset, leading to a more effective workout.  That slightly more prominent vasculature could be all that’s needed to make one three times as focused as he normally would be.  And there’s no reason to be ashamed to exploit placebos.  I’ve also mentioned that in bodybuilding, results are priority.  This doesn’t mean that you should always put yourself at real risk for the hopes of success, but if you can turn a commonly experienced feeling into a tool for success, then go for it.  Use every opportunity you have to rise above what you currently are.

Merits of Peanut Butter

That’s right.  I figured it’s time to devote a post to my favorite bodybuilding food.  Here’s the nutrition facts from Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter:

skippynutritionfacts

People usually have the wrong impression about peanut butter and its supposed “detriments”.  When they think of the negatives, it’s usually about the fat content and caloric value.  While they’re not wrong that peanut butter will contain a hefty amount of both, it is incorrect to assume that these are bad for bodybuilders.  We depend on large caloric intake to grow lean muscle, particularly during the bulking phase.  Typically, people will resort to meats or milk to obtain the needed calories, but doing so introduces risk of high cholesterol, sodium, and fat consumption.  Relative to these, peanut butter is an excellent alternative.

The main benefit of peanut butter is that it has a significant amount of easily consumable protein.  Typically, 2 slices of whole wheat bread at about 4g of protein each will use about 2 tbsps of peanut butter, providing a total of about 15g of protein in a quick and easy meal.  Adding this to your workout days during the bulking phase will really help you to put on the weight that you want.

It’s important to keep peanut butter consumption in moderation even during bulking.  Obviously, peanut butter isn’t as effective during the cutting phase since you want to stay away from calories and fat altogether.  Till then, this remains one of my favorite meals each day.

Drive

Pushing oneself to the breaking point is obviously very challenging.  That’s why so many people get stuck at plateaus and sometimes give up on lifting altogether.  What people don’t realize, however, is that the mind is the deciding factor, not the body.  The phrase “mind over matter” has been chewed up and spit out so many times that it has become trite, losing its initial impact.  Yet, those of us who have experience with threading the fine line between new frontiers and failure know that it holds truth.

This past week has been a bit disorganized for me – not terribly, but when you stick with a Monday through Friday schedule for about 10 weeks, even slight alterations feel huge.  Due to a work meeting and unexpected snowfall on Friday, days were shifted and I ended up doing arms yesterday.  Even more unexpected was an acquaintance of mine [we’ll call him Rod] suggesting that I join him for his arm workout routine since I mentioned that it was my intended muscle group.  I’m never against trying a new routine, but it’s a bit different when I’m already expecting to complete a certain routine for that day.  When this is the case, I end up feeling a bit reluctant to switch from my intended path.  But Rod had a better arm development than me and it didn’t take long for me to accept his offer and see what I could learn from him.

Friends, this is possibly the single best piece of advice I can offer: when someone more experienced and developed than you offers an opportunity to try out their knowledge, take it.

I ended up doing a multitude of various barbell curls supersetted by various gripped pullups, but the frequency of sets and the short duration of rest periods made it one of the most intense biceps sessions I’ve ever done.  I haven’t felt my biceps this sore since the first few weeks back in May of 2012 when I started going to the gym again.

Even though the drill itself was taxing, the main component of its success was the drive I had to succeed.  If I were alone, I may have stopped after a certain point, believing myself too fatigued to finish the last few reps.  But here I had a peer observing me; I wanted, NEEDED to go HAM.  And I did, and it felt GOOD.

So for all the lifters who are having trouble getting over a plateau, here are some mental tips that may help you out:

Visualize who or what you’re pushing yourself for – this could be a person you’re competing with or a specific physique you want for yourself.  Whatever it is, maintain the mental picture of it in your mind.  Always remind yourself why you want to lift so badly.

Work out with a comparable peer – the strongest drive to push yourself during that moment is to have someone comparable in strength to lift alongside you.  The motivation flows back and forth between the 2 and will help both break their boundaries.

Always have a target number of reps in mind – never do reps “until fatigue”.  That’s just vague bullshit that will never allow you to kick down the door to the next level of muscle growth.  Always make sure you have a number of reps you want to achieve; you’ll instinctively do whatever it takes to reach that number.  And when you reach that number, go further and do 20% more reps.

Switch things up – you probably hear this often, but I’ll put it here anyway.  Stagnation is the #1 deterrent.  You should be feeling sorer than ever after every workout.  If not, that means that your body is probably acclimating to the particular conditions of the workouts you’re doing.  Make sure you change these conditions, add supersets, shift the days around, do half sets, negatives, keep it fresh.

Hope these tips help.  Happy lifting.

Update on Bulking/Cutting Cycles

My regimen is always going through revisions.  It’s  like a large mass of marble – uncut and rough when you first start out, and gradually, becoming finer and more precise.  So when people ask me about what a good workout plan is, I lay out the details of what I do or would do, but I always mention that everyone should be able to infuse their own flavor or brand into what they want to do.

That being said, I’ve made some changes to the Supplement Schedule [now renamed Phase and Supplement Schedule to reflect the inclusion of phases].  I had planned to continue bulking well into June, but I’ve decided that that was simply too long of a bulking period.  The body adapts too well to routines and it’s important to keep things fresh.  I feel that with the previous schedule, both the bulking and cutting phase durations were too long and too infrequent, so I’ve decided to limit the bulking phase to about 12 weeks, and the cutting phase to 6 weeks immediately following.  This is also synergistic with the 6 week creatine on and off cycles.  As of now, I’m nearing the end of the 2nd week of the creatine off cycle in the bulking phase, and plan to begin cutting at the first week of April.

I also made changes to indicate that creatine will be cycled on and off throughout the entire year.  Check out the updated schedule to see the changes, and as always, feel free to apply it to yourselves as you see fit.

Mid Cycle Progress Report

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Height: 5’8″  Weight: 200.2 lbs.

These pics were taken halfway into my first creatine cycle.  Promera reports that Con-Cret doesn’t produce any bloating or excessive water retention, and so far, this seems to be true.  Since this is bulking phase, I’m not going to consider where fat needs to be burned or where more definition is needed.  I feel that I need more mass in my upper chest, rear deltoids, upper back, lower lats, and arms overall.  My upper arm circumference did increase from 16″ to 17″ since the beginning of the bulking phase, but I’d like to see even more growth over the next few weeks.

200 Revisited

I’ve reached 200 lbs. again.  The last time I was this heavy was back in June 2012, but I had a significantly higher body fat % then.  I’m quite pleased with my mass building during the bulking phase thus far.  Then again, I’ve never really had trouble gaining mass.  Since I have about 5 months of bulking remaining, I’d wager a final weight of about 210~215 lbs. in June 2013.

I’m honestly very ambivalent towards bulking.  It just feels like a preliminary period – months of stuffing calories to accumulate enough clay to mold when the cutting stage arrives.  It’s a very slow build-up, and I’m both anxious and eager to skip forward to the conclusion.  Patience is the best virtue here.  Bulking requires a lot of it.  It’s a tiresome, methodical process spanning months leaving your body feeling large, heavy and immobile.  There are no shortcuts.  And that’s what I love about it – it’s old school, you gotta put in the time, and it pays off in the end.